As some of my followers will know, last month I taking was a long and well deserved holiday to re-inspire and catch up with some good friends, idols and work. That’s right, I went to South Korea, a dream of mine for about 16 years. Of course I did the usual touristy things and explored Seoul city, but I was also invited to watch and partake in my first ever true Korean K-pop concert, with a little help from Kinetic Vibe and B1A4 (and experienced what could potentially be bought to Europe for B1A4’s European tour).
I was invited to join one of the members of Kinetic Vibe to the September 13th show (the last performance in Seoul) at the Yonsei Culture & Art Center Amphitheater, a venue known to many as a place where a lot of Korean dramas and movies are filmed. It was placed amongst the most picturesque scenery, but upon one of the biggest mountainous climbs I have ever had to trek. Before we arrived I was informed that B1A4 don’t accept fan gifts as a rule, nor do they accept money for charity. Instead they pick a worthy charity and ask fans to donate towards them – in this case fans were asked to bring stationary goods like pens, pencils, notebooks and art supplies. Every fan that bought something for the charity (no matter how little or big) was given a B1A4: Adventure Eco Bag and a certificate to state that they had donated to a good cause (items that were only available if you attended their concert and donated to the charity). Personally, I felt happier knowing a child from a worthy cause was getting some enjoyment from money I would have spent on the members, but not knowing if they would have gotten my gifts.
Upon arriving at the arena we were greeted by staff members who checked our tickets, gave us our wristbands, and then to my surprise gave me a fan banner which had all the instructions of when to use it on the back in English, Korean, Chinese and Japanese; as well as an inflatable cushion to sit on (because we would be seated on concrete steps). The ticket price came in at just 90’000 won (roughly £45) for a mid tier seat which was dead central – perfect view of the stage and close to the walk ways. Probably not that different to a top tier ticket price in the UK, but then again, the UK are notoriously more expensive than anything going on in South Korea. The ticket organisation was also really well done. Everyone was seated and no one was running to get to their seats. If you arrived early you were placed in the queue in an ordered fashion based on your row and seat number, eliminating the need to queue up at stupid o’clock in the morning to make sure you secured yourself a prime place in the standing pit.
Once seated it was apparent that fans had travelled from all over the world to be there. The staff were really interacting with fans by joking with them in general (and in multiple languages). Compared to European concerts where people sometimes complain about the rudeness and strictness of staff, it seemed like there was a mutual respect and understanding here. The stage was set up with many large screens, big bright lights, and what looked like fire, water, confetti and firework cannons around the vicinity. About 15 minutes before the show a large number of mimes and clowns walked amongst the pathways between the crowds, making people laugh. There was even a battle between eight different sections and clowns to see which section can scream the loudest. The mood was being set for a fun filled “Adventure” concert.
When the large lights dimmed and the screens began to show the B1A4 members, the usual screams and cheering began, but I was in for a very big surprise. I will note here that the whole concert was a no go zone for anything electrical, which meant no cameras, phones, tablets or recording devices. If you were found to have taken photos or videos throughout the concert, you would be asked to leave. It was nice to see that the fans took note of this rule, and it was also really nice to experience the concert without the lights from thousands of mobile phones in front of you.
Although it was hinted that B1A4’s “Adventure” concert was going to be similar to a circus, I was not expecting it to be on such a big scale. There was a live band, a marching band, flag bearers, clowns, dancers, and of course the antics and personalities of the B1A4 members themselves, which created a whole different atmosphere to the usual “shout because your favourite member is on stage” feeling. I found myself relaxing, feeling welcomed within the Korean BANA fandom and actually taking part in all of the fan chants whilst singing and dancing when asked by the members to do so. Ranging from a collection of older most loved songs to a collection of songs from their latest “Sweet Girl” album, there was a lot to sing about. Plus the members truly knew how to utilise and dominate the stage fully. A few key moments during the concert came with a drumming segment where all of the members stood in a line, wearing vests that bared their arms, with nothing but a spotlight on each member. In front of them were some large barrel drums, and in a spine tingling and goosebump inducing performance the members played the drums like true professionals. Hopefully the same feeling and performance will make its way to the stage on their European tour.
There was a very cute segment of the concert where the boys had to go change their clothing for the next song, so in true K-pop concert style a VCR (video) was prepared to play on the big screens. Member Jinyoung (known as the prince of the group) did a voiceover to a small chibi cartoon character of himself, explaining his ideal type of girl. The other members CNU, Baro, Sandeul and Gongchan also joined in the fun and began to explain what they liked in a girl. As each member was explaining, a camera would pan the crowd and then all of a sudden the member would shout “STOP” and the camera would zoom in on a singular fan as they are asked to act cute. In doing so a member of staff would then go to the fan and hand them a special present box and a rose, given by the member who told the camera to stop. This was a new and cute and way to interact with the fans, but also a new take on fanservice that didn’t involve bringing the fan up on stage. Fanservice is pretty huge in Korea, but it is often overlooked as doable within the restrictions of health and safety, and security, for both the artists and the fans. In Korea there appears to be a bond and trust that fans won’t do anything to harm the idols. This was proved when a chair was placed directly in front of myself and Jinyoung proceeded to walk up to the chair as the lights went out. When the lights came back on fans went wild around the whole of the venue as the members had placed themselves in front of fans on the lower, middle and upper tiers, ready to serenade, hold hands, and interact with the surrounding fans. At this point I was completely blown away by the hidden beauty that Jinyoung held. From a more professional point of view, I was more in awe at just how well behaved the fans sitting directly in front of each member were. There was obviously excited shuffling in their seats, laughing, crying and a few very excited little yelps of a scream; but there was no pushing, yelling, grabbing or rudeness. In fact, fans were singing along and genuinely enjoying that small moment they had with the B1A4 members. I also noticed how each member of the group was studying every single one of their fans faces, smiling, giving nods of recognition and giving over an appreciative aura.
As the concert was coming to an end, keeping with the term ‘fanservice’, fans began to shout their chants for an encore, but they probably weren’t ready for what was to come. The members came out with many bottles of water, with staff members behind them carrying even more bottles of water. Whilst singing and jumping around on stage, the members then jumped off the stage and went through the whole of the concert arena. There was a moment where CNU, Baro and Gongchan were just an arm stretch away from where I was sitting as they asked fans to stand up to sing and dance, and began to throw water amongst the fans. By this time I didn’t care that I was getting wet, nor did any of the other fans, especially when Sandeul and Jinyoung began dancing with fans and holding their hands. The end was literally one big party. During the very last moments fans were greeted with a parade of the dancers, bands, and members who all waved and received praise and cheers from BANAs. With one final bow and wave to the fans, the boys bid farewell.
If there was something I learnt from this concert, it’s that BANAs are one of the kindest, heartwarming and genuine fan groups I have had the pleasure of meeting. In terms of concerts, I don’t think I will ever experience something on that scale within Europe (though I understand that Kinetic Vibe are thriving to bring the same essence of a true Korean K-pop concert to European fans). From extensive fanservice, special stages, and the involvement the members and staff had with fans, it was truly a delight to see. Instead of turning fan projects away, organisers worked together with different fan groups and helped to make special fan events happen. The tickets were well priced, the venue was beautiful and the design and organisation of the stage and the way it was used to its fullest was spot on.
Hopefully this has created a little bit of excitement about the B1A4: Adventure Tour in Europe, for it really does seem like Kinetic Vibe want to bring one of the best Korean inspired, immersive concerts to Helsinki, Berlin and Madrid. With a little support from European BANAs and K-pop fans alike, Kinetic Vibe can create the concert YOU want. Tickets for the B1A4: Adventure Tour in Europe are now on sale and available at the Kinetic Vibe website, and should you have any questions about the upcoming concerts then head on over to the Kinetic Vibe Facebook and Twitter pages. In the meantime be sure to keep checking back to MCM Buzz for more updates on the B1A4 European Tour as well as your update on K-pop around the world. Show your support of B1A4 by watching their latest music video for “Sweet Girl” below!